The Retro Critic



Why did it have to be Snake…

The game I’ll be talking about today has technically existed since the 70’s but, for many of us, it’s only been around since the time of brick Nokia phones with silly antennas, a time of bad Vengaboys songs, a time of not pawing your computer or mobile screen like a child pretending to play the piano on a wall made of candy.

This was the late 90’s, man.


Cool Spot To The Max

You couldn’t play Sonic games on your phone, not even those annoying Jelly Smash or Marshmallow Punch or whatever they’re called games.

You know the ones.

You know them because one of them’s on your phone right now.

You sicken me.

While Ericsson phones were really the ones to get at one point with their groovy flip-cases and their fancier games.

And by fancier, of course, I mean…

Breakout Atari


Just picture the image above on a really tiny phone screen and completely bright blue all over.

Now I know that Snake and Breakout both basically showed up back in the Atari days, the former under the name Surround (or Blockade just before that), but Snake was and is no Breakout. And I’m not just saying that to please Steve Jobs fanboys. It was just cool to be able to do more than be a snake on a phone at the time so Breakout felt far more advanced, somehow.

In the first Snake game I played on a Nokia phone, you would lose by simply touching anything that wasn’t diamond-shaped: the side of the screen, the top of the screen, the bottom of the screen, yourself. Funnily enough, for the longest time I accepted that diamond-shaped food the snake gobbles up as some kind of precious gem.

Only me would forget that I was playing a game as a snake.

In a game called SNAKE.

Facepalm Snake

Eventually, of course, the pick-ups would look like actual things that made sense but the charm of the first few phone Snake games and those that came before it was its abstract, minimalist look. The snake could be a snake but it could very well be anything your twisted mind desired! A futuristic train, some Tron-style Light Cycle, Kurt Russell escaping New York, you name it.

The next version of the game I recall playing, Snake II, was still pretty abstract but slightly less limited. Finally, your snake could finally travel through your swanky new monochrome screen without bumping into anything, bugs would appear out of nowhere, there were mazes and your snake looked a little bit more like a snake.

Snake 2

Surely they would never, ever outsnake this one!


Yes, as you can imagine, from then on, Snake games went all Tetris and many more versions of it would appear left and right. The last one I ever tried was simply called Snake III and was mind-blowingly different than the other two I mentioned earlier. It was like going from Master System to X-Box 360 without any transition!

The whole thing was in colour (can you imagine?!), the snake had a face, heck, the snake was a SNAKE! There was some kind of awkward isometric view, there were fruits to eat because, as we all know, snakes are full-on herbivores, boxes to crash into, animated reactions. I think there was even music and sound effects, it was madness.

Snake III

Madness, I tells ya!

And although this Snake III looked like a dated version of a game we’d download for free on our current smartphones, like some kind of bizarre take on Temple Run, it lacked the simplicity and iconic look of the original. It’s like saying Dwayne Johnson instead of The Rock, it makes more sense but it’s just nowhere near as cool.

Whether it was called Snake, Worm, Chase, Checkmate, Pizza Worm, this is a quietly glorious game that will waste your time like only the very best games can: in style.

I do recommend you guys with an iPhone download the app Snake ’97 which lets you play a bunch of mothertruckin’ Snakes on your mothertruckin’ phones.

Thinking about it, though…

What was it about a snake, some poor defenceless animal, almost eating itself that fascinated us so?

After all, that image was one of the most scarring aspects of the Tintin book where he goes to Congo:

Tintin Snake


Scary Tintin is scary.


Snowy Eyes